Off course you couldn’t get away from the Royal Wedding today. As a typical Brit I am usually embarrassed at displays of flag waving and patriotism but I found myself wearing my England t-shirt to work in New York and watching the ceremony while eating breakfast.
I can remember Princess Diana’s wedding while I was a teenager and in my full flush of enthusiasm for the monarchy. During my twenties I flirted with republicanism but I have now swung back to thinking it is a good idea to have a symbolic non-political head of state.
It cuts down the ego of the Prime Minister to have an audience with the monarch every week and days like today put British politicians firmly in their place. They can see they are very unlikely to regarded with the same affection and are reminded that the monarchy will be there long after they have left the stage. Some Americans even feel the same way :
If it’s an affront to democratic sensibilities, it’s also a safeguard for democratic institutions. Better a real king, crowned and powerless, than the many pseudo-kings who have strutted (and still strut) so destructively across the modern stage. (The Dish)
As Walter Bagehot said in 1863:
A royal family sweetens politics by the seasonable addition of nice and pretty events. It introduces irrelevant facts into the business of government, but they are facts which speak to men’s bosoms and employ their thoughts. (The Spectator)
The day was also important for other reasons:
– it was the twentieth anniversary of the cyclone in Bangladesh which left 140,000 dead and 10 million homeless. This month’s National Geographic has a piece on the lessons the country took from that disaster and how it can teach others to cope with rising seas levels;
– President Obama visited Tuscaloosa, one of the tornado-ravaged cities in Alabama;
– the President also met eight surviving members of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike. Dr Martin Luther King went to Memphis to support the almost entirely African-American workforce as they campaigned for better working conditions and on April 3 delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, the day before his too-early death.
And his speech is still amazingly apt today:
Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — “We want to be free.”
Have a good weekend.